Roma's middling effort rescued by 8/10 super-sub Steven N'zonzi
Roma put all of their oldest defects on show before battling back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Atalanta's reserves. The hosts looked like they were in for a great season debut in front of an enthusiastic Stadio Olimpico when Javier Pastore introduced himself to supporters with an outrageous back-heeled opener. But as is customary Roma assumed the match was done and dusted after just two minutes, sitting back for the rest of the first half as the Dea's power pressing saw them crash three goals past a shell-shocked Robin Olsen.
A swift change of personnel and formation at half-time led to Roma doing exactly what they should have done from the start, and with eight minutes left they were deservedly level thanks to a wonderful 60-metre burst and finish from an otherwise wobbly Alessandro Florenzi and Kostas Manolas' tap-in. That Roma managed to get back into the game was largely thanks to debutant Steven N'Zonzi lending weight and muscle to a midfield that a few Daniele De Rossi blocks aside was completely invisible in the first 45 minutes. With Justin Kluivert on the flank and Pastore behind the front-line everything suddenly made more sense.
Substitute Patrik Schick couldn't believe his luck when his goal-bound dink was poked away by Pierluigi Gollini, nor when livewire Kluivert wasted his perfect counter-attack assist by allowing himself to be caught when clean through on goal. Even after handing a whole half to the opposition, Roma somehow manage to keep you wondering how they lost.
The reaction from coach Eusebio Di Francesco and the players after such an appalling first half is a credit to both. Coming back from 3-1 down to Atalanta, even one peppered with kids thanks to their do-or-die Europa League play-off midweek, is no easy task, and the fact it came from both improved performances and a tactical change is heartening for the rest of the season. The same goes for the displays of N'Zonzi and Schick in particular.
Manolas and his centre-back partner Federico Fazio were absolutely awful in the first half, with the Greek international waved around like a rag doll by Duvan Zapata before the large attacker rolled in Emiliano Rigoni for his first and the away side's second. It seems Di Francesco is dead set on jamming players into his preferred 4-3-3 formation rather than shape his tactics to the personnel on the pitch. It's already clear this isn't going to work, so let's hope he doesn't persist with it.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- After watching his starting lineup get demolished in the first half, Di Francesco took control at the break and made the changes that allowed his side to push back and eventually snatch a point. However, the team still seems like a collection of individuals rather than a coherent unit - perhaps not much of surprise when your club keeps whipping players out from under your feet.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Robin Olsen, 5 - Looked completely out of sorts both with the ball at his feet and when faced with an opposition attack
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 5 - Brought Roma back into the game with a neat goal but struggled from the start.
DF Kostas Manolas, 5 - Scored the equaliser, salvaging a first-half horror show. Embarrassed by Zapata for Atalanta's second.
DF Federico Fazio, 5 - gave the ball away cheaply so often and seemed to be a minute behind everyone else on the pitch. Picked it up after the break.
DF Aleksandar Kolarov, 6 - A quiet night, but one that didn't bring many mistakes, unlike the two centre-backs alongside him.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 4 - Stood aside as Atalanta's midfield crashed through towards the goal time and time again.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 - Kept Roma in it with some excellent blocks, before helping to impose the play with N'Zonzi.
MF Bryan Cristante, 4 - Shrank into his shell against his old team. Deservedly hooked at half-time
FW Cengiz Under, 6 - Set up Pastore's wild opener with a good cross and provided a constant threat down the left.
FW Edin Dzeko, 6 - Solid, dependable, but nothing spectacular. Helped Florenzi score his opener but fluffed a golden chance to head home the winner.
FW Javier Pastore, 6 - A great goal was accompanied by a patchy home debut. Much better once moved behind the attackers.
FW Justin Kluivert, 6 - A bright spark and a dangerous presence, but should really have won the match for Roma when put clean through on goal in the dying seconds.
MF Steven N'Zonzi, 8 -- A really impressive debut. Changed the complexion of the match by stopping Atalanta's midfield running riot.
FW Patrik Schick, 6 -- Thought he had won the game not once, but twice. Looks every inch a player reborn.